“A” Company, #4 Officer Cadet Bttn.
New College, Oxford. 17/2/17
My dear Mother,
I’ve been here since the 6th inst. and England is very pleasant compared to France.
There are a few civilians here, all Rhodes scholars. They don’t work with us but some dine with us. One of our instructors is a professor of science so we get plenty of work but it is interesting and a picnic. The living conditions are first class and so is the food. The same cooks, and waiters from peace time attend to us. We are treated like officers but must act as privates until we pass our exams. We were sent to the tailors to be measured on the first day. We will get smart clothes and must carry a walking stick and wear gloves when we are out. We have fine reading and recreation halls with their old fashioned oak furniture and pictures. Everything about the place is refined and the grounds are splendid – all old English customs. There are lodge keepers at the entrance who touch their caps and call us Sir.
Some of the English are pretty foppish but to be clean and in these conditions is a great pleasure after muddy old trenches. I thanked my Colonel when he sent for me to tell me he was sending me here and he said I had earned both a raise and a change. He said I had talked little and had done a lot and that he could give me a commission in the field but guessed four months would be fair treatment for me in England.
The Adjutant of the 18th Bttn has friends in Oxford. He is a Rhodes scholar and gave me a letter of introduction so I would have a home away from home to go to. I haven’t been to see them yet. I haven’t got real steady or quite used to real fine feathers yet and thought I’d get into good working trim before getting into the social part of this life.
We are to be examined at the end of the first fortnight to see how we shape up and then there is to be some weeding out so I think it is as well to do some work. I felt a bit rusty on study the first day or so but today the lecturer gave us a set of papers that were given the last last lot of cadets to do. We were given an hour and a half to do them. I managed all right. Of course they were only given to us for practice so we may have an idea of what to expect, but with my usual luck at the military business – my luck has been wonderful – and a reasonable amount of work I have confidence of getting through. The work is very interesting and the conditions for so good it will be a pleasant four months. Some of the lads are swells’ sons and haven’t seen action. We get put in charge of a squad to drill in turn and they are not brilliant! I was at it yesterday and when I finished the officer said “O, but you are a sergeant and used to it.” It was a compliment all the same.
Sergeant pay is very handy, too because clothes cost money. I have a pretty fair egg in my playbook, too, so there is no need to worry about Stid for the next part of the war. It may be over anyway, I hope, for everyone’s sake. I have nothing to grumble at in as much as anyone who hasn’t been crippled has nothing to grumble at. We have had some pretty warm work at times but we get a lot of sightseeing and we’ve spent more time back from the front line than in.
Strange countries are always interesting, still a glimpse of sunny Australia would be very pleasant. It’s very wet here. The Thames has a lot of ice on it and the ponds are solid enough to skate on. I haven’t had a glide yet, but it is fashionable in Oxford. The town is all colleges and very fine most of them are.
I met W.Davis in the street here. He wished to be kindly remembered to the Palmerston folk. He is at a college somewhere similar to this only he is briefing for the air service.
I am going to try to get into the Flying Corps while here if I can. I will try to get to fly if I get a chance and try for a Pilot’s certificate. They have a hard and fast rule to take no-one over 25 but if I get among the machines I think I could get in. Many of the men aren’t really expert with the machinery and I think I could master them pretty quickly and being a signaller is one of the main things and having a mechanical mind, too. It appears to me to be easily the most interesting part of the military and there is a lot of room for individual success at it. A little success in the military makes a wonderful difference in one’s comfort and the danger isn’t really any greater – in fact it’s less. I was used to sending others to work when I came here and in a concern like soldiering there really isn’t as much fun in digging trenches as seeing others do it properly and it’s easier to send a message than to do it if one has to attend to a number of things.
It seems a very long time since I enlisted and civilian clothes now look as strange as the uniform did at first. I’d like to get all over grease and oil about a harvester or plow back at my home life for a while again with all the sun and heat – better than cold and fog.
I would like to get among the kiddies again. I’ll send them some pictures of the place on Wednesday. I must get one of myself, too. It’s the thing to do – to rush off and get a picture as soon as the nice uniform is donned but I’ve held off so far and watched the lads go off to the photographer and count the days for the proofs.
How is the farm in general? It worries me often. Haven’t had any paper news of the seasons. We have a great lot to be thankful for that Australia isn’t being fought on. War is hell for the country it’s -frightfully knocked about.
Love to all, Stid.